Scientists and Researchers meet at International Consensus Conference

“What do we know about consciousness and what do we need to know?” Scientists and researchers in the field of brain injury, ethics, coma and coma-like states meet at International Consensus Conference on Consciousness sponsored by Northeast Center for Special Care and National Brain Injury Research, Treatment and Training Foundation (NBIRTT).

(PRWEB) May 5, 2006 -- Twenty-three leaders in the field of coma and coma-like states, many internationally known, were hosted at Mohonk Mountain House by Northeast Center for Special Care last week to answer the question: “What do we know about coma and what do we need to know?” They came together to help shape the future policy and management for altered states of consciousness at a working meeting called “Impairments of Consciousness: Creating a Consensus,” sponsored by National Brain Injury Research, Treatment and Training Foundation (NBIRTT) and Northeast Center for Special Care. Medline, GSR Consulting, and Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union are supporters of Northeast Center for Special Care and provided other amenities for the Impairments of Consciousness participants.

The list of working group participants is as diverse as it is impressive and includes: Dr. Steven Ashwal from the Department of Pediatrics at Loma Linda University, Ann M. Belcher, RN, CEO of Northeast Center for Special Care, Jean Berube, Esq., a contract lobbyist for the National Brain Injury Research, Treatment and Training Foundation, Gerry Brooks, MA, CCC, CBIT, Brain Injury Program Director of Northeast Center for Special Care, Dr. Joseph Fins, Chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Center, Dr. Alfred Frontera of Kingston Neurological Associates, Dr. Joseph Giacino, Associate Director of Neuropsychology at the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute - Center for Head Injuries and the New Jersey Neuroscience Institute at JFK Medical Center, Dr. Ikram Haque of Memorial Hospital, Dr. Joy Hirsch of Columbia University Neurological Institute, Dr. Richard Hodder, Medical Director of Northeast Center for Special Care, Michael Kaplen, Esq., President of the Brain Injury Association of New York State, Dr. Douglas Katz, Medical Director of Brain Injury Programs at Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital, DR. Victor Zelek, Neuropsychologist, Northeast Center for Special Care, Dr. Jean Langlois, Epidemiologist from the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Steven Laureys, Neurologue, Chef de Clinique Associe, Universite de Liege, Belgium, Dr. Jose Leon-Carrion of the University of Seville, Spain, Dr. Warren Lux of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, US Department of Defense, Dr. Geoffrey Miller, Yale University School of Medicine, Anthony Salerno, President, Healthcare Associates, Dr. Nicholas Schiff, Director of the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuromodulation of Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Dr. John Whyte, Director of the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, Dr. Nathan Zasler, Chairman of the International Brain Injury Association, Dr. George Zitnay of the World Health Organization Director General’s Panel of Experts in Neurotrauma, and Dr. Kevin Zitnay, Neurosurgeon, John P. Murtha Neuroscience and Pain Institute.

During the three-day working meeting at Mohonk Mountain House, group members exchanged ideas and experience on a broad range of issues on impairments of consciousness including epidemiology, ethics, assessment, treatment, research, policy, and funding for impairments of consciousness. An outline for a scholarly article to be co-written by meeting participants and published in the Journal of Neurotrauma was created at the meeting. The participants are also preparing reports to the US Congress and to the Institute of Medicine. The important work begun at this landmark event will continue to be led by Dr. George A. Zitnay, a member of the World Health Organization Director General’s Panel of Experts in Neurotrauma, and will continue to be supported by it’s primary sponsor, Northeast Center for Special Care.

The group seeks to include vital information in both the article for the Journal of Neurotrauma and Reports to the US Congress and the Institute of Medicine on critical questions such as: “How many Americans are living in a vegetative or minimally conscious state;” “How many of these, not yet in a permanently vegetative state, recover consciousness;” and “How many people emerge or can emerge from a minimally conscious state?” Answering these questions will provide a strong base to inform policy-making decisions.

Consistent, meaningful assessment and standard treatment protocols are also significant. Initial assessments of impairments of consciousness after traumatic brain injury may show early indicators of better outcome. Looking for substantive changes, for better or worse, thereafter, through regular, comprehensive, re-assessments will help guide families in care. Needed longitudinal outcome research can follow from such an initiative. Now, a year after Terri Schiavo’s controversial care decision, seeking answers to these questions is more judicious than ever. Opening this discussion within the walls of the US Congress and the Institute of Medicine will help move the compassion-based recovery and care of the hundreds of thousands of individuals living in a minimally conscious or vegetative state, worldwide, toward best possible outcomes.

Chairperson of the Ulster County Legislature, David Donaldson, Legislator Peter Lieppman, Legislator Peter Kraft, and Legislator Hector Rodriguez continue to show their support for the work done at Northeast Center for Special Care and came to the Impairments of Consciousness conference to meet with participants at an evening wine presentation and dinner sponsored by Northeast Center for Special Care.

Co-Chair of the United States Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. encouraged the work of this group by his message that “The Congressional Brain Injury Task Force eagerly awaits the results of your work.”

Founded in 1999, Northeast Center for Special Care is a unique inpatient facility designed to serve medically complex and multiply impaired individuals with brain injury, spinal cord injury, neurobehavioral disorders, ventilator and respiratory care needs and other complex medical needs. Advanced professional skills and innovative therapies are coupled with an unwavering belief in the potential of every individual to progress. It is this belief that drives our commitment to help those recovering at Northeast Center achieve the highest degree of rehabilitation possible and to re-enter the community.

Contact Information 
Beth Faichney 
Northeast Center for Special Care 
http://www.northeastcenter.com

845-336-3500 3262